Big Sur is a section of the California coast, that runs along Hwy 1, from Carmel-by-the-Sea in the north to San Luis Obispo, or more precisely to the Hearst Castle at San Simeon in the south. It is characterized by the collision of coastal mountain ranges, locally named the Santa Lucia Range, with the Pacific Ocean. Throughout much of Big Sur, this produces dramatic sea cliffs and undersea kelp forests. The mountains trap most of the moisture out of the clouds, often in the form of morning fogs, creating a favorable environment for forests, including the southernmost habitat of the famous coast redwoods. Farther inland, in the rain shadow, the forests disappear and the vegetation becomes more like the familiar fire-tolerant California chaparral scrub.
Big Sur, California, has been described as “the greatest meeting of land and sea” and included among the hundred things on Earth that haven’t been spoiled yet. Adorning the shoulders of the continent with Aquamarine Coves, and picturesque bridges strung along California’s Highway One, all of this splendor was virtually inaccessible until the 1930s when scenic California Highway One was completed.
Even today, Big Sur is relatively remote and much of it is protected government land. The result is a landscape that is virtually unspoiled by human contact, and is a place defined by its natural features mountains and water. Here at the edge of the continent, mountains plunge into the sea with little regard for the tiny ribbon of highway that clings tenuously to their slopes or the tourists clustered at every turn, taking photographs and chattering about the views.
Off the highway, The quiet in Big Sur is startling – there are no noises from cars, airplanes, blaring radios or other man made sounds to mask the persistent sounds of nature.
During the day, the ocean is the star of the show, with crashing waves and sweeping vistas that end only at the horizon. Whether one chooses to become immobile while contemplating any of the hundreds of captivating views or decides to putter down the coast visiting art galleries and shops, the temptation to do less and less becomes stronger until, by the end of the day, most Big Sur visitors can be found in a profound state of relaxation.